Today’s Quick Fix Friday concerns a fingering issue I see all the time with beginner clarinet players – the dreaded peekaboo pinky!
Most clarinet and band method books begin clarinet students with easy fingerings involving only the left hand, such as bottom line E or open G. This is practical for ease of technique and response, but many beginning clarinet students are often unsure what to do with the right hand. As a result, they develop bad finger and hand position habits as they devise ways to hold the clarinet more comfortably. The most common offense I see is holding the pinky (especially on the right hand) behind the clarinet, aka playing peekaboo pinky.
The quick fix? Practice proper finger and hand position! Imagine the clarinet fingerboard is a computer keyboard. When typing properly on a keyboard, you should be using “home position,” where your fingers hover over the asdf jkl; keys. The clarinet also uses a similar home position (123 | 456), and your fingers should always return back to home position after any brief detours (such as playing side Bb/Eb).
Make sure you hold yourself and your students accountable for proper finger/hand position. Practice slowly in front of a mirror, and watch out for peekaboo pinkies or other fingering faux pas!
Happy Friday and happy practicing!